What’s Old is New Again

Welcome, 2022! New Year, New You?

No thanks. Same you, but make it better than ever.

Veganuary is upon us once again. Millions have already taken part in this month-long initiative to make more compassionate choices by switching to plant-based foods, and no effort is too small. Ideally, the results will be so compelling that participants will go vegan for good, but even one week of abstaining from animal cruelty makes a difference. Need I remind you, even if you don’t care about animal welfare, even if you don’t care about the environmental impact, you should care about your own happiness.

The benefits of a plant-based diet are thoroughly documented. My biggest concern isn’t with health, though. Veganism isn’t a diet, and as such, I feel duty-bound to remind you that there are greater advantages to dumping dairy, eggs, and meat…

Like these cupcakes. Beginning life in 2006 as one of my first recipes ever, my Classic Chocolate Cupcakes have been a runaway hit since day one, and still endure as one of my most popular posts. It’s really a shame, considering the terrible photos and poorly written instructions. Now, almost 15 years later, it’s time to right those wrongs.

Made with basic pantry staples, I always have everything on hand to make a batch at a moment’s notice. In 30 minutes or less, start to finish, you’ve got a party starter ready to celebrate. The results taste so much richer than their humble origins would suggest; moist, tender crumbs with a deep chocolate flavor shine beneath slightly crisped edges.

Can you turn this into a large format layer cake? Absolutely! Just double the ingredients and divide the batter equally between two lightly greased 8-inch round pans. Bake for 20 – 24 minutes, and you’re well on your way to a majestic, towering stack of chocolate decadence. Same goes for a triple layer cake, if you really want to reach for the stars.

What about gluten-free options? You’ve got it! I’ve tested this recipe with Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten-free baking flour with excellent results. Go ahead and use your flavor alternative blend if you prefer something else. Everyone’s invited here!

Everyone needs a tried-and-true, foolproof chocolate cake recipe in their arsenal, and this one’s mine. I hope it can be yours, too. Even if you’ve never tried your hand at baking, even if you’re new to the plant-based world, this is one solid formula that will always do you right. Veganism is the sweetest reward!

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Peppered with Sweet Presents

Sugar cookies iced with delicate features come to life; chocolate snow caps shake off a light dusting of powdered sugar to reveal cacao crevasses; peanut butter blossoms bloom in the dead of winter. Christmastime is cookie time, and everyone has a favorite. Taste memories are intrinsically linked with these cherished, traditional flavors, which makes it hard to break away and try something new.

What if I told you there was a way to satisfy the craving for nostalgia, while still feeding the desire for adventure? Small twists on established crowd-pleasers make sure that everyone walks away happy. Besides, in the case of my Chocolate Pfeffernüsse, who’s ever complained about adding in some extra chocolate?

German “pepper nuts” are basically soft, anise-forward gingerbread bites with a hint of alluring cardamom that lingers like a sweet memory. Condensing a world of flavors into such small packages, these classic holiday treats are long overdue for a modern revival.

This year, I have Rodelle helping me make that comeback possible. Their extracts and cocoa powder are essential staples in my pantry all year round, but they really shine when it’s time to bring out the very best treats for the holidays. You can taste that quality in every bite thanks to Rodelle Gourmet Cocoa Powder, Vanilla Extract, and Pure Almond Extract here. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t entrust such an important task to any other brand.

As if the boldly re-imagined morsels, blanketed in a powdery sheath of confectioner’s sugar was not enough of a gift, Rodelle has offered to further sweeten one lucky reader’s holiday with a GIVEAWAY!

You’ll be able to bake right along with me using the best possible ingredients. This generous bundle includes (1) 4oz Pure Vanilla Extract, (1) 8oz Gourmet Baking Cocoa, (1) 2oz All-Natural Vanilla Paste, and (1) 2oz Almond Extract. To enter be sure to follow @RodelleVanilla on Instagram, and find more ways to rack up entries below.

Rodelle Baking Bundle Giveaway

Everyone’s a winner here, because you can still enjoy these divine chocolate cookies no matter what. You might want to double the recipe if you plan on sharing, though.

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Better Than Butterfinger

Gather ’round and don’t be scared now. Conventional candy bars do have many frightful ingredients, reading like a chemistry experiment gone terribly wrong. Tempting with bewitching spells cast from sugar and corn syrup, even the strongest hero have occasionally fallen for their evil tricks. It’s time we beat those monsters back once and for all.

Butterfingers were original unleashed upon the world almost one hundred years ago and continue haunting hapless shoppers at checkout stands to this day. Escape from that dangerous trap because back in the safety of your home, we can make a real treat together.

Resoundingly crunchy, crisp throughout, and packed with deeply toasted nutty flavor, this recipe is more than just a resurrection of a past favorite, but a complete revival and revamp. Cloaked in devilishly dark chocolate, these rich, intense flavors would utterly slay the old phantom.

Originally featured in my now defunct eBook Wicked Treats, it seemed a same to let this gem meet such an timely end. If there’s only one treat you plan on making for Halloween, make it this one!

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Kiss and Tell

One small batch of nostalgia, coming right up.

For someone who built a career on sweet treats, my kitchen has been churning out distinctly savory dishes lately, with desserts far and few between. It’s tough testing so many sugary indulgences when you’re baking for one, and the pandemic has cut severely into my opportunities to share. Still, there’s no denying the call of cravings, a deep, undeniable, almost primal urge for the comfort that only a bit of sugar might bring.

Large pies are out of the question, as are elaborate entremets. Nothing too fussy, nor too perishable in reasonable quantities for a solo eater to take down. Most days, I can satiate those innate desires with sensible poached pears or macerated strawberries with softly whipped coconut cream, but there’s something about the ritual of actually baking that soothes the soul, almost more than the act of eating the end results.

To that end, I turn to this scant handful of treats that comforted me as a child. Impossibly picky, there wasn’t much I wanted beyond the basics, which is where these cocoa kisses came in. Meringues tinted with a hint of chocolate, my mother modified a recipe right out of The Joy of Cooking to create a cookie that was crisp, light as a cloud, but slightly gooey and soft on the inside. Perhaps it’s not the proper form for a true meringue, though who’s to judge when they were snapped up as soon as they could cool?

Bringing down the yield to a more manageable quantity, you can whip up a batch in minutes, and feel just fine about devouring them just as quickly. Anytime I feel that familiar craving for nostalgic sweetness, I won’t deny it; this is the kind of self-care that everyone deserves.

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The Naked Truth

Whether you’re trying to woo over a new crush or romancing your soul mate, the best valentines are given naked.

No, wait, don’t take that statement literally. DON’T strip down to your birthday suit without a clear invitation, and ideally, in private, please! What I meant to say is that you should give your lover your bare, unvarnished feelings, fully exposed and vulnerable. The greatest gift is the simple truth, which also happens to be what you’ll find within the powdered peanut butter from Naked Nutrition.

Naked PB has only one ingredient: Powdered peanut butter made from slow-roasted, non-GMO, US-grown peanuts. It’s touted primarily as a lower calorie, higher protein alternative to the traditional spread, but that emphasis on quality makes it a superlative inclusion in truly decadent treats.

Pure and to the point, you could reconstitute it with a touch of water for tremendous sandwich schmear. Unlike other, lesser peanut butter powders, Naked PB mixes smoothly without clumps. Slap it on bread with some jam for an upgrade on the common sandwich. Loosen it with more liquid to use it as a dip with apples, strawberries, or even celery, if you’re feeling so bold.

Proving that there’s no need to sacrifice flavor for health, these triple chocolate peanut truffles layer on bold, nutty flavor without refined sugar or artificial additives. In fact, the nutritional stats could rival that of the better energy bars on the market, minus the overblown wholesome hype. These are dark, decadent, full-bodied chocolate treats, that just happen to be better for you.

Starting with a foundation of soft, chewy nougat, you can leave the candy thermometers behind and get straight to the good stuff. Naked PB joins forces with crunchy peanut butter and maple syrup for a toothsome, irresistible texture. Thick, sticky date-based caramel stacks the deck in your favor, towering over any store-bought sweets that might otherwise beckon. Seal the deal with some skinny dipping in dark chocolate, because even when it’s enrobed, it’s still boldly unvarnished.

Even if it’s not for Valentine’s Day, or not for anyone but yourself, get naked this year. It just feels better to be au naturel.

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Dynamic Duo

Can true harmony be found in a single sweet bite? That’s the theory behind Sweetduet, touted as “a luscious duo of chocolate and fruit for the mindful snacker.” Treading the fine line between decadent and dietetic, the results make no compromises on either side. While the packaging reads like health food, the taste is pure indulgence.

Dates are at the heart of this dulcet symphony, and not just when dipped in dark chocolate. Date nectar is actually the sweetener of choice, imparting notes of amber caramel, a touch of malt, and a hint of macerated fruit. Beneficial trace vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B, iron, magnesium, potassium, give it an extra boost that straight sugar can only dream of. This superfood infusion is exactly what makes it such a great choice for anyone on your gift list.

Better than your average box of chocolates, there are no duds that get left behind in this assortment. Soft, fudgy, unsulfured dried fruits offer style and substance, seamlessly blending smarts with satisfaction. Dates, mangoes, apricots, and pineapples take center stage as the curtain of cacao drops away slowly. Together, they dance for a fleeting moment of bliss, as the initial hit of intense chocolate melts, allowing the fruit to then take the lead.

The love of chocolate is nearly universal. Bridge that final gap by finding that sweet spot where the nutritious choice is also the most delicious. Sweetduet has you [and those naturally nectarous fruits] covered.

Sweetduet can be purchased online for local Los Angeles pickup or nationwide next-day shipping. Treat yourself, or your loved ones near and far, for a sweeter, healthier holiday.